Login
Copyright

What is Root Cause Analysis? - Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Root Cause Analysis: Tools & Methods

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Understanding Root…
  • 1:05 Data Collection
  • 1:37 Asking Why
  • 2:59 Identifying Solutions
  • 3:49 Implementing Change
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amber Dixon

Amber works with graduate students enrolled in a virtual program and has a Master's of Social Work degree.

This lesson will explain root cause analysis and discuss its relevance to project management. We will review the importance of understanding the problem, data collection, asking why questions, solutions, and implementing changes.

Understanding Root Cause Analysis

Most of us have attended meetings where the same problems find their way back to the agenda month after month. The root cause analysis is a quality improvement technique that helps address a problem to understand what is causing the problem. Project managers often use root cause analysis to prevent the problem from recurring.

It's key to have a strong understanding of the problem that needs improvement for successful change to be achieved. How can the problem be well understood? It's best done when collaborating with a team that has experience with the problem and an understanding of what contributes to the problem.

Let's look at an example. A health care organization was out of compliance with the expectation that it serve clients within seven calendar days after hospital discharge. In discussions, team members drilled down on the actual barrier to meeting the compliance standard. The main problem was a lack of notification from the hospital when mutual patients were admitted, let alone notification when patients were discharged from the hospital.

Data Collection

Data collection is a driving force of project management processes. The benefit of measuring data is the ability to understand the extent and severity of the problem. Data also helps to prioritize needs and further analyze the cause of the problem.

The health organization we discussed collected data and found that they were 20 percent compliant, compared with the standard of 100 percent compliance. Team members recognized that they needed a few months to improve, and that it would be unrealistic to expect perfect compliance right away.

Asking Why

In addition, project management involves the Five Whys analysis, which is defined as systematically identifying the root cause of the problem. It's critical to identify why the problem is recurring to figure out how it can be fixed. It's an easily understood process that is productive in many scenarios. This analysis helps to show the correlation of cause by repeatedly asking why.

The Five Whys begin with a problem statement. Let's look at an example.

  • Problem statement: You are on your way to work and you recall that you forgot to close the garage door.
  • First question: Why did you not close the garage door? Because I was in a hurry.
  • Second question: Why were you in a hurry? Because I woke up late.
  • Third question: Why did you wake up late? Because I did not hear the alarm.
  • Fourth question: Why did you not hear the alarm? Because I did not turn the alarm on.
  • Fifth question: Why did you not turn the alarm on? Because I took cold medicine that made me drowsy and I fell asleep in the living room.

The process of answering why after each question helps to identify and drill down to see the reasons that a problem occurs. In this example, we can see that the root cause for not closing the garage door when leaving the house was the result of taking cold medicine, which led to drowsiness and falling asleep in a place away from the alarm clock and, ultimately, overlooking securing the home when departing.

Identifying Solutions

Creative and effective solutions begin with collaboration and critical thinking. Work groups benefit from brainstorming, which helps a work group use its collective intelligence to form several ideas in a short amount of time. The health care organization asked the following questions: How does the organization learn of client admission to the hospital? What can be done to make communication more timely? How can the medical records department assist in communicating about third-party discharges?

Here are common questions to ask to identify when determining solutions related to individual errors:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support